A principled Adrian Vassallo
Adrian Vassallo is not simply a Labour MP with a difference. He is a man of definite principle. That feature has permeated his actions and statements, not just recently when he reiterated he would not be contesting the next general election, but also over the long uneasy months that have led to that statement.
He is a man of principle in the first instance to himself. When he stood for election with the Labour Party he knew what kind of line he was signing to.
But he did that without forfeiting his own line. In a party which is at a minimum liberal, he styles himself as a conservative. That was not and should never have become a make or break position.
Political parties are not homogenous like some particular type of ice cream. The Labour Party is far less of a coalition than the Nationalist Party has developed into being. Yet it has always contained in its ranks members, candidates and MPs who did not see eye to eye on everything.
It is, in fact, impossible to do so.
Unless there is recognition of this simple fact, natural differences can lead to rapture, to breakaways and even splits, as has happened in the past.
In Dr Vassallo’s case, I am not aware that he is the stuff of which splits are made. He analysed his position in terms of the self, and took his decision accordingly.
What accentuated his area of differences has been described by the Labour leader as a misunderstanding. Dr Vassallo was adamantly against divorce.
He did not see the Bill enabling it as I, for one, saw it – essentially a legal provision that allowed choice without imposing anything.
As was his right, he was a conscientious objector. He voted against and somehow that elicited the comment that his action would have repercussions. As a matter of fact that was a natural reaction – every action causes a reaction.
I would not think that Dr Muscat is the type to make threats.
More consequential, to my mind, were two other factors – one a state of affairs, the other human relations.
The state of the Labour Party’s affairs is that its new leader shifted it onto a platform of what he terms a movement of moderns and progressives. I wouldn’t say that is a radically new platform.
Since its birth the Labour Party was ahead of its Malta time. But the metaphor is new and succinctly describes Labour according to Dr Muscat’s young image, as well as reflecting current metaphors abroad.
That state of affairs was accompanied by something more personal. Dr Vassallo feels that his Labour colleagues sidelined him, barely speaking to him. If that happened, it was wrong. Isolation is never the best means of reaching out to anyone.
Again, I shouldn’t think that was done on a broad scale. But Adrian feels it was done enough to give him the feeling that, apart from being different – a conservative among progressives – he had become a pariah, an outcast.
That is where his principles came in. He would not bend or change them according to the winds of circumstance. He is what he is and he concluded that what he is and will determinedly remain makes him unsuitable to go into another election with the Labour Party.
I see him as principled, however, in more than just that. Though he will not seek re-election he has not withdrawn his parliamentary support to the Labour opposition.
He was elected on the Labour Party programme and he continues to support it in the House of Representatives.
In his position, that is not an easy thing to do. But he does it. And rightly so.
He is a popular family doctor and thereby no doubt attracted personal votes, which helped him get elected.
Yet the bulk of his votes, as with any other candidate in whichever party, come to him on the strength of the party ticket.
An MP who disagrees strongly enough with his party is obliged, according to this principle, to give it back his seat by resigning.
Being an MP – a representative of the people – is not simply a personal affair.